Wheezing is a whistling noise of varying pitch and loudness that occurs when the small airways of the lungs become narrower. This can happen because of inflammation or a buildup of mucus and dead cells in the airway. As these small air passages become narrower, wheezing may be heard when the person breathes out. As the passages continue to narrow, wheezing may be heard when the person breathes both in and out.
When a person has severe difficulty breathing, wheezing may no longer be heard because very little air is moving through the narrowed airways.
A doctor may order a chest X-ray or breathing test (spirometry) to determine the cause of a person's wheezing. Some causes of wheezing include bronchitis, allergies, or asthma. Treatment depends on the cause of the wheezing and may include medicines, an inhaler, or a machine to help a person breathe.
Current as of: March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Lora J. Stewart MD - Allergy and Immunology & Caroline S. Rhoads MD - Internal Medicine & Catherine D. Serio PhD - Behavioral Health